Pennsylvania bill would limit idling; other states take action

| Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A bill introduced Monday, Nov. 13, in the Pennsylvania House is intended to reduce unnecessary idling of large trucks in the state. In most instances, drivers idling their trucks while sleeping or resting would be exempt from the rule.

Sponsored by Rep. Will Gabig, R-Carlisle, the bill would apply to locations where diesel-powered vehicles load, unload or park. The restriction would apply to trucks idling for more than 5 minutes in any 60-minute period. Those same trucks could idle for up to 20 minutes in any 60-minute period when temperatures are lower than 40 degrees or higher than 80 degrees.

"Excessive truck idling is extremely detrimental to the air quality in Pennsylvania," Gabig said in a written statement. "The purpose of this legislation is to improve local air quality and give the residents of the commonwealth cleaner air throughout the state."

Exemptions would include situations when vehicles are stuck in traffic, required by law enforcement to stop or when idling is necessary "to operate defrosters, heaters or refrigeration to prevent a safety or health emergency" that is not part of a rest period.

The operation of auxiliary power units, generator sets or "other mobile idle reduction technology" is not included in the restriction.

Gabig's bill - HB3079 - is in the House Transportation Committee.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state this year to pursue idling restrictions for large trucks.

Illinois has new law
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a similar bill into law this summer. The new law prohibits stationary idling longer than 10 minutes per hour in areas that include Chicago and East St. Louis, IL. It took effect July 1.

While waiting to weigh, load or unload cargo or freight, truckers will have their idling limited to no more than 30 minutes per hour, "unless they are in a line of vehicles that regularly and periodically moves forward."

The idling rule will be waived when temperatures are lower than 32 degrees or higher than 80 degrees. Truckers will also be allowed to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners, or other equipment necessary "to prevent a safety or health emergency."

The idling prohibition will not apply when idling of trucks is required "to operate auxiliary equipment to accomplish the intended use of the vehicle." Examples specifically cited in the bill include "loading, unloading, mixing, or processing cargo; controlling cargo temperature, construction operations; lumbering operations; oil and gas well servicing or farming operations."

Rhode Island takes action
In Rhode Island, truck drivers soon will be prohibited from idling their engines for more than five consecutive minutes in any 60-minute period.

Exemptions include situations when vehicles are stuck in traffic, required by law enforcement to stop or "when it is necessary to operate defrosting, heating, or cooling equipment to ensure the health or safety of the driver or passengers or to operate auxiliary equipment; when it is necessary to bring the engine to the manufacturer's recommended operating temperature or when the engine is undergoing maintenance or inspection."

The new law also clarifies that auxiliary power units and vehicles delivering fuel or energy products are not included in the restriction.

The state Department of Environmental Management will have until July 1, 2007, to develop regulations to limit idling.

Michigan pursues restriction
A bill in the Michigan Senate Transportation Committee would prohibit diesel-powered vehicles with gross vehicle weights of more than 8,000 pounds from stationary idling for more than 10 minutes per hour in areas that include Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The bill - SB1406 - would authorize exemptions for situations that include when vehicles are stuck in traffic, required by law enforcement to stop or when idling is necessary "to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners, or other equipment solely to prevent a safety or health emergency."

The operation of auxiliary power units needed to load, unload, mix or process cargo, and control cargo temperature are among the activities that are not included in the restriction.

The idling rule would be waived when temperatures are lower than 32 degrees or higher than 80 degrees.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com

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